Why Suffering [Part 2 of 3]
Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.
Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.
Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible
Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed
Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment
Part Two: “Why Suffering?” – The Daily Life View
In Part One we stayed at the high view, the 30,000′ level in order to see the big picture why’s and wherefore’s of “Why Suffering?” This is the level where God has not left us with “mystery, mystery… it’s all mystery.” On the contrary, God made all things good; man spoiled it; but God put a plan of redeeming the world’s brokenness in place. Period. Now let’s get down into the trenches of suffering.
Please Take a Deep Breath. Relax. Be Still. Release Your Preconceptions.
Theodicy is defined as, “
The existence of suffering side-by-side what is purported to be an all-loving and all-powerful God is the most confounding question of the unbelieving world; and, due to the secularization, worldliness of the church, is a mystery that is rarely sufficiently explained and processed by God’s people as well. Unbelievers won’t believe because [in large part] believers [God’s light and salt] don’t have a sufficient, lived-out, biblical and/or personal “apologetic about theodicy” either.
“Mystery, mystery… all is mystery…!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, play on words)
If any Image Bearer becomes too comfy, satisfied with not knowing God, His truth, and His love, he or she will live a meaningless life: this claim should not come as a mystery to anyone. The fruit of “unwarranted mystery” [suppressing the truth: Romans 1:18-32] is meaninglessness, foolishness, depression, despair, and eventually [walking or mortal] death.
This is UN-mysteriously huge: There exists a realm legitimate mystery and illegitimate mystery. So, before we get into the next level of detail about “Why Suffering?”, following are some A,B,C’s for you to consider about the subject of mystery:
A) The Nose-Bleed Section: At the 30,000′ level, we have a reasonable, UN-mysterious, plain explanation about why suffering exists and how God’s Plan of Redemption encompasses the solution [see below]; but,
B) At the Nitty-Gritty-Level: at the ground zero, in the trenches, heart-shattering, suffering-in-your-face level, all the answers are not [necessarily] supplied by God; mystery often exists; in the midst of all the “Humpty Dumpty details” of trying to put our shattered hearts back together again there will indeed be mysteries, unanswered on this side of Christ’s return; yes, they can be confounding and troublesome—but they are NOT ignored by God and NOT all will last forever (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Job 38-41; Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 5:10; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-19, many more), please…
C) If we will “StayPut!” and give God and our born-again, Sonship-centered, and communal faith in Christ a chance to work in and through the difficult yet redeeming journey of redemptive suffering many, many—sometimes most, never all, but a wholly sufficient—mysteries associated with any particular heartbreak will be at one time buried and invisible to us in the soil, but then will sprout up out of Christ’s resurrected reality and rise up… and rise up… to reveal God’s redemptive plan in the pain! We must see each point of suffering through. We must stay put long enough to see the redemptive attributes God offers—but we simply don’t care to see.
Will we choose to stay put, persevere, and work it out? God’s story-based, counter-intuitive, and deep ways of working the pain out to reveal His glory and plan takes time + faith + Scripture + community: His triumph in our trial. His glory in our gory. His highest in our lowest. His joy in our junk. His heavenly in our hell. His delight in our despair. His transformation in our trial. Need I go on? The stories tied to this truth are endless, but we just don’t believe it when it comes to our own.
God’s redeeming grace will provide many answers if we will stay put in faith.
Glory and good blessings exists in every realm of our pain, but there’s a process involved to reveal it.
Does your story prove this to be true? Have you done the hard and courageous work to redeem a heartbreak and witness God’s amazing and multifaceted breakthroughs—which in practically every case will radically assuage much of the pain of being left in the mysteries of, “Why God?” “Why me?” “Why now?” “Why him?” “Why her?” “Why?”
When we cry “Why?!” we will rarely wait for an answer. Why? Because we harbor answers in our heart that we don’t want cleared up, enlightened, or stirred-up by God the Spirit Himself and other Christians in community (Jonah 1:3; Romans 1:18-32; Titus 1:10-16). So many of our prayers and outcries are answered by God, so many mysteries are cleared up, but they just don’t happen to fit into our preconceived solutions or idolatry of wanting to remain in the fog of our own “oughts”, “musts”, “poor me’s”, and “did God really say?”
God has promised suffering is for our good (Romans 5:3-5; 8:28; 1 Peter 4:13), but will we have the patience and faith to stay, to mourn, to meddle with our heart, to mend, and eventually to be redeemed to a far better place: more Christlike than before the heartbreak? (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Please carefully consider: If you have been refined, matured, made holier, more Christ-like, compassionate, comforted, fruitful, faithful, re-engaged to sacrificially serve by means of any/all the trials God has allowed… even just a teeny-weeny bit… you will respond to the above claim with a “YES! I know this to be true… What was, at one confounding point in time, a God-awful mystery to me in the midst of my suffering turned out to be a momentary fog that was lifted as I walked deeper and deeper into the pain and saw how God had sovereignly used it to bring Himself glory and manifold blessings to His people… and me!”
If we choose to allow “unwarranted, illegitimate mystery”—E.g., sinfully suppressing or ignoring God; accusing God without knowing anything about Him, His plan; being foolish and/or lazy about searching the Bible and other resources; allowing bad and/or NO church teaching to point to as an excuse; having such an aversion to pain as to embrace stoicism, existentialism, hedonism rather than crying out to God and His Saints…
If “illegit mystery” be an idol to you, please know, a) you will turn more and more bitter, hardened, and yucky to be around; b) you will have no excuse or reasonable room to blame God; and, c) you will have, even as a Christian, aimed way, way too low of the mark IN TIME and FOR ETERNITY (1 Corinthians 3:11-14; Philippians 3:14; Revelation 22:12)!
God’s mysterious yet detailed protocol for redemptive suffering really matters, Beloved.
And, finally for the “A,B,C’s”, redemptive suffering added to redemptive suffering are the building blocks for Christ-likeness (Romans 8:28-30), a unique and special form of wisdom forged in suffering (James 1:1-5), so that Christian contributions to mitigating, stemming the darkness and decay of the world will, can and will occur! We cannot “release Christ” into the chaos of this world devoid of becoming more and more like Him.
When Christians leave out the intentional waiting upon God for the redemptive transformations He and His incarnational community can bring about, the watching world will be left out of “Why Suffering?” And this is a travesty of colossal proportion.
So how can an all-loving and all-powerful God allow suffering?
This is where we’ll begin at The Training Table next week, Beloved marathoners in and For Christ. Run reformed, revived, and as a constructive revolutionary. Amen.